Update from the Protect the Fraser Coalition regarding Chilliwack Hazardous Waste Facility

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Important update to Supporters of the Protect the Fraser Coalition. Tell the BC Minister of Environment that the banks of the Fraser are no place for a hazardous waste plant! Add your name to the petition!

Hazardous Waste Facility continues to rear its ugly head

Toxic Waste WarningDespite tremendous opposition, the City of Chilliwack and the hazardous waste proponent Aevitas continue to pursue building on the banks of the Fraser River a facility to handle hazardous wastes that have the potential to destroy fish stocks on the world’s #1 salmon river. At jeopardy is also the health of the hundreds of thousands of people downstream from the proposed facility.

There would appear to be little regard by the proponents for the health of the fish stocks and there has been virtually no consultation with the communities below Chilliwack who would bear the brunt of discharge of a potential “witches’ brew” of chemicals in the event of an accident or natural disaster. Be assured it’s not if there is an accident, it’s when there is an accident. A fire in a similar facility in Edmonton resulted in the discharge of toxic materials; fortunately that facility was located away from any major waterways (read the article here). It is worthwhile to note this appears to be the case in virtually ALL sitings for hazardous waste facilities in Canada, further raising concerns over why this particular proposal flies in the face of that precautionary precedent.

When the public was made aware of this hazardous waste proposal in Chilliwack, the immediate galvanizing of First Nations, environmentalists, and the recreational fishing community was unprecedented. A Town Hall meeting in Chilliwack was standing room only, with residents aghast at the prospects of this potential environmental disaster in their community located on the Fraser River floodplain. It should be noted the facility is not only a stone’s throw from the river, but also adjacent to the Bert Brink wildlife management area whose sloughs, wetlands and gravel bars provide spawning habitat for salmon species. It has been impossible to find anyone who supports this facility at that location, outside of Chilliwack City Hall.

Exacerbating the potential for disaster is the fact that the proposed location parallels the Trans Canada Hwy. Past accidents on this particular stretch of the Hwy have seen transport trucks careen off the Vedder Canal Bridge, leaking their cargo into the Vedder River less than a mile above it’s confluence with the Fraser. One can imagine mercury, PCB’s and other toxic materials entering the Fraser.

Concerns regarding the inadequacy of the City of Chilliwack notice advising residents of proposed rezoning of the property resulted in Coalition members taking the issue to court. Unfortunately the judge ruled the language used was adequate and if residents were further concerned they should have requested clarification. While disappointing, this ruling in no way deters the Coalition from continuing on a plan of action to ensure the Fraser River, the fish and citizens are protected.

To date, over 30 major organizations representing approximately 150,000 people, have expressed their outrage that a facility of this type would ever be considered in close proximity to this precious resource. One is hard-pressed to find any positives in proposing a development of this nature at this location. The Coalition speaking for the many organizations involved has maintained the responsible view that in today’s world facilities like this are required, but is adamant that it be located away from the Fraser floodplain.

The Coalition’s message is simple, we are not opposed to the facility, we are opposed to the location.

It is imperative at this time that we reaffirm the support of the many people and organizations opposed. Concerns have been expressed locally, provincially, across Canada and internationally. This is an issue that crosses borders and unifies all people including some who normally don’t express their concerns on environmental issues. This is a “motherhood” issue which touches the hearts of all citizens. The Fraser River has been the life blood of our province and has supported people for thousands of years. It must be protected!

Currently, Aevitas has submitted an application to the Ministry of Environment. The proposal will be studied and possibly referred to an environmental assessment. One of our goals is to see this proposal have an environmental assessment or other assessment where the public can provide comment. We are concerned there will no longer be an opportunity for public comment.

To continue the Coalition actions, we will be contacting those groups that initially signed off in opposition, seeking their continued support and encouraging them to help expand our membership.

We are also looking at creative fundraising, including of course seeking financial support from those who support the coalition. We trust most will appreciate the urgency and contribute to our funding so that we can host Town Hall meetings, advertise in the local media, print materials for a door-to-door campaign and cover some basic costs of organizing and attending meetings with downstream municipalities and the Minister of Environment. We also need to raise $5000 to cover court costs. Through the Outdoor Recreation Center we will be able to offer tax deductible receipts for donations over $20 and upon request.

The Coalition is very receptive to offers of support and suggestions in how we proceed. Some of our proposed actions include the following:

1. Exploring further legal options;

2. Securing a meeting with the provincial Environment Minister attended by the primary sectors represented by the Coalition;

3. A past presentation to Metro Vancouver demonstrated great concern from the Cities and Municipalities downstream of Chilliwack. We will be contacting these jurisdictions individually seeking their further support;

4. Town hall public meetings in all areas potentially affected by the hazardous waste facility;

5. Encouraging letter campaigns to both provincial and federal ministries responsible for protecting our fish and the environment;

6. Working with our First Nations members in supporting their actions in protecting their historical heritage and lands.

Again we reiterate: “We are not opposed to the facility. We are adamantly opposed to the location.
______________________________

For further information and to reconfirm your support please contact the spokespeople below:

First Nations representative: Ernie Crey, 604-819-7981

Recreational Fishing representative: Rod Clapton, 604-530-1624 or rodney.a.clapton@sunlife.com

Environmental representative: Lina Azeez, Watershed Watch Salmon Society, 604-537-2341 or lina@watershed-watch.org

Constituent representative: Glen Thompson, 250-573-4212

 

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